Green congress, spring 2017

Three successes and one disaster. First the bad news. The green party has changed its policy from the minimum wage only being necessary until the Basic Income is fully operational, to the minimum Wage being a permanent feature. So every potential employer must always pay all employees £7 per hour.

We agree that this is necessary at present, but it ignores a key advantage of the Basic Income when an adequate Basic Income is in place, and a steady state economy a policy aim, in pursuance of the Paris Climate Agreement, namely that every potential employee will have a completely free choice whether to work at all, or to accept any particular job.

This is what I said in an earlier blog on this topic:

“Consider a struggling business from the arbeitgebers point of view. The German word for employer translates ‘work-giver’. If the business folds – no jobs. But if you have a Basic income, you can make an individual decision whether a job is worth your while. Studies showing that the minimum wage does not destroy jobs have only been done when the economy was growing. If the Paris agreement is to achieve anything, a zero growth economy may be necessary for a time. If that happens – even by accident, as in 2008, a minimum wage must reduce the number of jobs available and a Living Wage even more so. I am pleading for recognition that both sides of the old bosses and workers battle-line will have a new incentive to compromise”

This change in Green Party policy is as dogma driven as the present Conservative government’s approach to benefits or climate change. Thank goodness the Green Party is still insignificant, or it would be as serious a mistake as Brexit, or Trump. There will be a completely unnecessary shortage of jobs, as they will simply not be viable for many businesses. We agree that many employers are bastards. But as I have explained in another blog, they have no option in a growth based culture.  To succeed they must be, or get trampled on by the other Capitalists. They have been considerably more so since the introduction of benefit sanctions in October 2012. Zero hours contracts were not a problem until then, but they are now at 5 times at that level.

But once that freedom to say no is conferred by an adequate Basic income (my figure is £175 per week in Britain), all employers, whatever their true nature, will have to appear reasonable. But there are those who cannot believe this. they see bosses as inherently nasty and exploitative, and always will be. Even if that were true, and my ‘belief’ (for me, simple logic) that the Basic income will force then to offer acceptable terms is wrong, it will still be true that jobs which would exist will not. Conference was swayed by two passionate speeches (Anne Gray and Laura Bannister), whilst I was reduced to trying to explain a procedural motion. Due to business in the closing conference session being rushed though, the above case was not heard.

Throughout my 44 years in the Green Party I have had a vision that the ‘left/right’ divide can be healed by the Basic Income, and that political conflict from now on will have to be between those who think living within ecological constraints is paramount, and those who still believe there will always be technological fixes.

I appeal to readers of this blog to support me on this. Please re-tweet this, comment on my blog, and also on the Green Party Members’ Website. I have often said I cannot leave the Green Party: I have nowhere else to go. That remains true. It is still the nearest party to what I believe in, and (like Europe) I am not yet convinced it is beyond hope. But this class war backward step does drive me closer to despair.

But that apart, conference was inspiring. It was a congress of Greens from all over the world. In my next blog I shall tell of three potentially crucial contacts I have made.


7 responses to “Green congress, spring 2017

  1. I’ve just linked your comment on the GP discussion forum.

    The Green party does unfortunately seem to have redefined itself as being “left” , but historically green thinking does has more of an anarchistic streak and I hear an echo of that in your comments here. The CI is as much about freedom as it is about “social justice”, it can appeal to those who want to be able to swashbuckle just as much as those who want security.

    • Thank you for the GP link, I’ll look at it next. Yes indeed, the basic income gives bargaining freedom. The only way I can make sense of those who do not accept what to me is a logical sea change in power relations is that they are still trapped in a class war mind set.

  2. Conference plenaries are a mess. The way they work tend to generate more heat than light. I wanted to hear your argument. To me, being green in both senses of the word, concerning economics, the ‘plea’ for basic income sounded reasonable (i don’t use the word ‘argument’ because there is never enough time given to develop an argument) so i was disappointed to not get the opportunity to hear your view.

    My concern about what you say above is that, is it not likely that without a minimum wage in parallel with basic income, employers will offer as low rate as they can and employees will end up having to work extra hours to acheive the same level of income overall.

    • I did try to explain what you didn’t hear in my blog. An adequate Basic Income gives everybody the power to say ‘no’. The offer has to be acceptable. Also, the German word ‘Arbeitgeber’ for employer translates ‘work-giver’. If the business folds – no jobs. I am thinking in terms of a planned recession, because if we don’t, we shall have a bigger accidental one due to climate change. Both those passionate speeches were absolutely bang on in the here and now. they dis miss what to me is the logical consequence of the new power relations the Basic income creates. I am thinking of how to ensure social justice in a society trying to live within ecological limits.


  3. The Conference process was fair and democratic, but not very wise.
    As the mover of an amendment to retain the former policy, I take responsibility for the failure. In three minutes I could not deliver the complexity of the case to retain wage flexibility and explain the political risks.
    In the workshop, prior to the the plenary, we had no time to discuss the arguments and have them presented in a workshop report. Instead all the time was taken up by a procedural discussion,given the confusion caused by the proposers’ own amendment. That was bad luck for everybody.
    The task for the 2020 manifesto writers is now harder. Inevitably, I think, the 2015 manifesto’s tax prescription will have to be more severe – particularly if we aim for a higher CI – and will have to include tax increases on business, e.g. business rates, and on business inputs, particularly fuel. Combined with an expectation of high, inflexible and increasing labour costs, the GPW manifesto offer will then easily be dismissed as anti-business.

    I rebuke myself for not having started earlier and not being more vigorous in GPEW forums. But, more generally, I think we should reflect on how we make policy: democracy is necessary, but not sufficient.

    • Thank you John. Actually we wuz robbed, but we are where we are. The chair (someone I have never seen before) was bouncing things along with the laudable object of getting through as much remaining business as possible, but this grievous mistake was the casualty.

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